Today’s Architecture as Seen Through Enduring Concerns

This lecture course focuses on the critical reflection of long-standing issues in the architectural practice still providing a valuable frame for considering recent architecture. Such issues are:
I. Architecture as an inevitable witness of time
II. The notion of knowledge in architecture
III. Architecture versus necessity
IV. Architecture versus arbitrariness

They are independent issues and the format of three lectures in a row -Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- one week every month: the 26, 27, and 28 of January; the 23, 24, and 25 of February; the 29, 30, and 31 of March; and the 19, 20, 21 of April. This format allows the autonomy of the subject without requiring continuity from month to month.

I Architecture as an inevitable witness of time:
We are aware that all works of architecture happen at a specific moment between the past and the future. Time is still present in the forms we receive from the past. But we foresee the future with the means provided by the present. Architecture history used to recognize this forceful relationship between a specific period of time and its appearance, leading to notions of language and style. To see how architectural forms evolve and ultimately become obsolete allows us to follow the pace of architectural history.

II The notion of knowledge in architecture:
What is knowledge in architecture? To explore the changing understanding of the term from the past to present gives content to the lectures this week. Special emphasis will be placed on two aspects: how it was disseminated, with an overview of methods of architectural education and what we could consider today as knowledge in architecture. To study the provenance of architects\’ skills and knowledge today is the issue here to be explored and illustrated.

III Architecture versus necessity:
Necessity, and architecture´s answers to specific circumstances, has always offered an explanation for architectural design. And if the immediacy of the world around seems to be present in vernacular architecture, nowadays it seems that construction techniques and design methods are the most active forces in shaping building activity, defining a new way of understanding necessity. In addition, the notion of sustainability is more and more understood as a new type of necessity. So these factors stand as an explanation of architecture as a product of cause and effect, supporting the durable fantasy of determinism which today reappears in parametric design. These issues therefore still deserve be considered.

IV Architecture versus arbitrariness:
The presence of arbitrariness in architecture, either in the classical tradition or in contemporary practice, and its counterpoint, the attempt to exclude arbitrariness, are issues that persist in time. Similarly, much of contemporary architecture claims to be following a strict functionalism. Even the work of an architect like Gaudi – considered to have enjoyed the greatest degree of freedom- can be seen as submitted to arbitrariness. The continuous presence of arbitrariness can be seen as a token of the architect’s responsibility in the built form allowing looking at them without fear.